Wangerin: Creation Narratives
As a seminar, we will discuss the parallels and the differences among 6 ancient creation narratives: the Japanese, Babylonian, Greek, Norse, Mayan, and the Bible. The parallels will reveal the deepest questions and answers of the human experience. The contrasts will show the differences which characterize various cultures. These be considered in the light of the Bible: what it shares with all humanity, and how it is unique.
Danger: Transatlantic Bestsellers
This course focuses on a transformative moment in publishing history. Between 1840 and 1870, British and American women writers published many bestsellers, proving that women’s fiction was capable of creating new audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. During this same period, new forms of print flooded the marketplace and reached a transatlantic audience, including newspapers, serialized literature, and three volume novels for circulating libraries and popular genres such as realist fiction, social problem novels, and sensational literature. This phenomenon—the rise of the professional woman author, the proliferation of print, and the transatlantic circulation of texts—will form the springboard for our investigation of six landmark bestsellers by American and British women writers. When examining these novels and their historical and material contexts, we will consider questions such as: how did rapid changes in the literary marketplace and forms of publishing affect ideas about authorship? How did women gain authority as popular authors during a period in which gender, class, and racial identity were hotly contested issues? To what extent did literature by women work to resist cultural stereotypes and imagine new social roles? Finally, we will consider to what extent these popular texts exhibit a “transatlantic character” in their attempts to wrestle with “The Woman Question”—a nineteenth-century social debate about women’s identity and social roles.
Clark: Lyric Passport
Czeslaw Milosz wrote that “The purpose of poetry is to remind us / how hard it is to remain a single person, / for our house is open, there are no keys in the door, / and invisible guests come in and out at will.” What he meant was, in part, that when we read poetry we allow our imagination to be accessed by a stranger. Alternatively, we might say that the lyric poem, which holds time in abeyance to dramatize emotional experience in language, allows us to dip into an artist’s mind and read the world from their perspective. This course offers students the opportunity to engage in the comparative study of poets and poetics from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. We will consider how poets from various cultures respond to similar problems in language, how an individual poet might speak not only for their nation but for humanity at large, and how poetic language is crafted to carry a freight of emotion across time and space. We will also ask questions about the function of the lyric. What explains its unique longevity as a genre and its continued power for contemporary readers?
Poets covered will include:
Robert Lowell (USA), Elizabeth Bishop (USA), Sylvia Plath (USA), Philip Larkin (England), Margaret Atwood (Canada), Derek Walcott (St. Lucia), Pablo Neruda (Chile), Octavio Paz (Mexico), Anna Akhmatova (Russia), Osip Mandelstam (Russia), Eugenio Montale (Italy), Wislawa Szymborska (Poland), Czeslaw Milosz (Poland), Tomas Transtromer (Sweden), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Nazim Hikmet (Turkey), A.K. Ramanujan (India), Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Pakistan), Bei Dao (China), Duoduo (China).
Calloway: Literature and Modern Science.
Literature and science seem unlikely bedfellows: their respective departments sit safely across campus from each other, and some students major in one in order to avoid the other. But scientific theories and inventions, and scientists themselves, often crop up in Western imaginative literature— in fact, some of our most remarkable and historically significant literary works engage science. Conversely, many scientific developments, such as space travel, had to be imagined in fiction before scientists could begin to develop them. In this class, we will consider several questions:
We will read across several centuries and genres, beginning with selections from John Milton’s early modern epic, Paradise Lost, which forever reshapes the literary cosmos. In the Victorian period we will read shorter stories that reckon with evolution and animal experimentation, as well as selections from George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which (among other things) brilliantly characterizes the ideal experimental scientist. In considering science in twentieth-century fiction, we will devote significant energy to detective fiction and will watch one episode of a contemporary criminal investigation television show.
Texts may include: Milton, John, Paradise Lost, Dover Thrift Edition, 2005; Wells, H.G. The Island of Dr. Moreau, Phoenix Pick, 2008; Eliot, George, Middlemarch, Oxford World Classics, 2008; Sayers, Dorothy, Whose Body? CreateSpace, 2011; Lewis, C.S., The Magician’s Nephew, HarperCollins, 2000; James, P.D., A Mind to Murder, Touchstone, 2001; Stoppard, Tom, Arcadia, Faber and Faber, 1994; Pratchett, Terry, Hogfather, Harper, 1999; a course pack comprising Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book 5; Donne, First and Second Anniversarie, “Valediction;” Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned," Blake’s “Newton;” Grant Allen: “The Missing Link”; Tennyson, In Memoriam, AHH.
Niedner: Failure and Forgiveness in Fiction.
In one way or another, most of the world’s stories revolve around some kind of brokenness and the search for reparation, reconciliation, healing, or wholeness. This course will take up longer and shorter pieces of fiction that directly or indirectly employ theological elements (images, allusions, back-stories, heresies, parodies, borrowed plot lines) in telling stories of human failure and the prospects for forgiveness.
In addition to reading (an average of about 160 pages per week over the semester), students will serve on small teams that rotate as class discussion provocateurs. Students will write several brief, informal, reflective pieces about course readings during the semester. They will write one mid-length paper on a topic of their own development. The only exam will be the final examination at the end of the semester.
Course reading list (an item or two may yet be dropped or added): The Bible; Short stories by Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Flannery O’Conner and Jorge Luis Borges; Stephen Adly Guirgis; The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (a play); Shusaku Endo, Silence; Robert Clark, In the Deep Midwinter; Sue Miller, While I Was Gone; Ian McEwan, Saturday; Marilyn Robinson, Home; David James Duncan, The Brothers K.
Danger: Victorian Women Writers: A Transatlantic Conversation.
This course addresses two myths coloring perceptions of nineteenth-century literature: first, that the fields of British and American literature were discrete categories and second, that women writers were exceptional, minor figures in Victorian publishing. In fact, many influential Victorian writers were women, who influenced one another and who wrote for a transatlantic audience. In our discussion of texts written between 1840-1870 and their historical contexts, we will examine questions such as: how did women writers use literature as a means for resisting cultural stereotypes and for imagining new definitions of women's identity and social positions? Do the borrowings of these writers point to an "Anglo-American character" and voice in women's literature and art? How did their responses to "the woman question" reflect and influence other social and economic preoccupations on both sides of the Atlantic (e.g., social class, slavery, children's rights, the medical and economic treatment of women, educational reform, commercial publishing, etc.)? Course requirements will include a short paper, a research paper, and an oral presentation.
Proposed reading list:
Burow-Flak: The Worlds of Shakespeare.
This course examines selected Shakespeare plays and sonnets in the contexts of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, and of selected works by playwrights contemporary to Shakespeare. The course’s title plays in part on Stephen Greenblatt’s recent biography of Shakespeare, Will in the World, which is as much a portrait of the England in which Shakespeare lived as of the Bard himself. In the spirit of Greenblatt’s biography, the course will examine as well some biographical fictions of Shakespeare the cultural icon, about whom so little is actually known. The course includes viewing of selected plays live and on video, and will very likely include a field trip. The course intentionally does not repeat texts that have been covered in the most recent Engl 410: Shakespeare (with the exception of any plays that we will see as a class).
Units and Texts: I: Biographical Fictions (Romeo and Juliet; Shakespeare in Love; Will in the World; selected sonnets; Wilde, The Portrait of Mr. W.H); II: Problems in Comedy (The Merchant of Venice; Marlowe, The Jew of Malta or Massinger, The Renegado; All’s Well That Ends Well); III: Recasting History (Henry V; Marlowe, Edward II); IV: Puzzling Tragedy (Macbeth; James I, Of Demonologie; Dekker, Ford, and Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton); IV: Inhabiting New Worlds (The Tempest; Montaigne, "Of Cannibals"; Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the Newfoundland of Virginia). Assignments will include a short (5-6-page) and a longer (8-10-page) paper, a summary and presentation of a critical work, and periodic responses to a class discussion board or blog.
Burow-Flak: Women and Gender in Early Modern Literature.
This course examines four groupings of literary texts in light of the above questions. Works in the first grouping by Milton, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, as well as by writers of conduct manuals for women, represent women or dictate how they should live. Works in the second grouping by Margery Kempe, Christine de Pisan, Aemelia Lanyer, Rachel Speght, Anna Trapnel, Mary Rowlandson, and Katherine Phillips respond to societal definitions of femininity, often taking part in then-current debates about women, and sometimes refashioning or creating their own literary genres. Works in the third grouping by Shakespeare, Ann Bradstreet, Christopher Marlowe, and Mary Wroth question definitions of masculinity and femininity, playing with more fluid definitions of sexuality and gender. Finally, works by seventeenth through twentieth century writers such as Angela Carter, Oscar Wilde, Abraham Cowley, and Jeannette Winterson rewrite the narratives by earlier authors on the syllabus, further refashioning gender constructs and interpretations of history as they do so. Assignments include a long (ten- to twelve-page) paper, periodic position papers, a presentation to the class, and a final exam.
Sponberg: The Development of English Drama.
This course will survey English drama from 1400 to 2000. Writers and plays could include: (Anonymous) The Second Shepherd's Play; Philip Massinger, A New Way to Pay Old Debts; Aphra Behn, The Rover or The Banished Cavalier; George Lillo, The London Merchant or The History of George Barnwell; William Congreve, The Way of the World; Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer; Richard Sheridan, A School for Scandal; Richard Cumberland, The West Indian; Thomas Holcroft, The Road to Ruin; Edward Butwer-Lytton, The Lady of Lyons or Love and Pride; Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon or Life in Louisiana; George Bernard Shaw, Widowers Houses; Harold Pinter, The Homecoming; Caryl Churchill, Top Girls; Tom Stoppard, Arcadia. The course will follow on four broad themes: 1) Changes in the dramatic conventions for representing a character's emotional and intellectual experience; 2) Continuities in dramatic construction through a variety of subjects, moods, and incidents; 3) Accommodations made by playwrights to the change in relations between women and men; and 4) accommodations made to the change in relations between England and her colonial possessions. Two essays, panel presentations, mid-term; final exam. Field trips to see productions or related plays, if possible.
Byrne: A History of Poetic Forms.
This course presents a study and practice in the formal elements of poetry through the analysis of model poems, critical essays on traditional and organic forms, and regular writing assignments in such forms as the sonnet, the sestina, or the villanelle. Students study rhyme, meter, rhythm, and other musical elements of poetry, as well as lineation, stanza pattern, traditional and experimental forms, and free verse. Readings include selections of poems from different historical periods in lyric, narrative, and dramatic modes. Students will also be assigned a term paper examining the history of a specific form or the use of and popularity of poetic forms during a particular historical period.
Juneja: Other Englishes.
It is no exaggeration to say that some of the most interesting contemporary literature comes from outposts of the former British empire. this is literature with enormous vitality, suffering none of the tentativeness or self-absorption of the post-modern literary scene in America. The themes are wide-ranging, even grandly political. I propose to use texts from the following regions: Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian subcontinent. Texts may include works by some of the following writers: Salaman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott, R. K. Narayan, Bharati Mukherjee, Earl Lovelace, Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aido, Chinua Achebe, or Nadine Gordimer.
Students will write at least one short essay, a long paper (ten pages), and participate in a panel or some other group presentation. Students should also expect a comprehensive final examination.
Wangerin: Sacred Tales I.
Cultures have defined themselves in the stories passed from generation to generation. The stories communicated are both the self-perceived character of that culture and its ordered view of the universe: how all things might be named and related; how this people fit with purpose into the cosmos. Once told as necessary truth, today these narratives are studied, rather, or read for pleasure. Each genre is represented also in the Jewish and Christian Scripture. This course will attempt to reclaim the oral nature of the Scripture's tradition 1) by studying the various genres as genres that shaped cultures; 2) by discussing the specific tales of the Scripture; and 3) by telling these tales in various ways again.
Juneja/Kingsland: African Politics and Literature.
This course uses the social and historical basis as a vehicle to achieve understanding of modern Africa and its literature. And it uses the literature as a valuable resource to achieve this social and historical understanding. We will begin with an analysis of traditional (pre-colonial) society and history, then move to an examination of European colonization and the African response, and conclude with an analysis of contemporary Africa's problems and prospects. Even as we achieve this broad perspective on the African experience, we will also have the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest.
Readings will be supplemented with films on society and history. The literary works, although they rely heavily on post-colonial writing from Africa, will attempt to match the developmental perspective we have sketched out here. Thus, we may begin with a slave narrative, and then move to a novel like Achebe's Things Fall Apart (Nigeria) which recreates the encounter between a traditional African society and the European colonizer. Other writers likely to be included are N'gugi (Kenya), Sembene (Senegal), and Farah (Somalia). Our enjoyment of this literature will, of course, not be limited to analyzing its social and political content.
Teaching responsibilities will be shared by a professor of political science and a professor of literature who do not always agree. Student responsibilities will include an oral presentation, a critical paper (six to seven pages), and a final examination.Byrne: Contemporary Poetry.
Requirements for the course will include two formal papers (ten to fifteen pages each) and a final examination.